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DOL/MSHA News Release
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (202) 693-9425

Released Tuesday, August 12, 2003

MSHA Issues Quecreek Investigation Report

SOMERSET, Pa. -- The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today issued its investigation report into a mine inundation that led to the dramatic rescue of nine coal miners after three days entrapped in the Quecreek Mine last July.

     "We need to learn from what happened at Quecreek and prevent a similar ordeal for miners and their families in the future," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Our goal is to send every miner home safely at the end of every working day."

     MSHA found that the primary cause of the water inundation was use of an undated and uncertified mine map of the adjacent, water-filled Harrison No. 2 mine that did not show the complete and final mine workings. Using this map led to inaccurate depiction of the Harrison No. 2 mine workings on the Quecreek # 1 mine map required by MSHA and on the certified mine map submitted to the State of Pennsylvania in the permitting process. The root cause was the unavailability of a certified final mine map for Harrison No. 2 in the State of Pennsylvania's mine map repository.

     After the Quecreek incident, MSHA alerted the mining industry on the inundation hazard, reviewed plans of underground mines operating near abandoned works, and worked with mine operators to provide additional protective measures where needed. The agency has participated in demonstrations of technology with potential to detect mine voids and has sponsored two technical symposiums to share information. MSHA expects to award $6 million in grants later this year for demonstration projects on technology addressing this issue, and another $4 million for mine map digitization programs. MSHA also is working with the Office of Surface Mining and state mine agencies towards a more effective overall system for archiving and digitizing mine maps and is distributing a public service announcement asking the public to share old mine maps in their custody.

     Black Wolf Coal Company, Musser Engineering, Inc., and PBS Coals, Inc. each received one citation for a violation of federal mine safety standards in using the inaccurate and outdated map. The investigators noted, "The final map may not have been available...but other information...would indicate that the boundaries used were questionable." Penalties for the violations will be determined at a later date.

On July 24, 2002, miners working underground in the Quecreek mine accidentally broke into an adjacent abandoned mine, which unleashed millions of gallons of water and trapped nine men for three days. MSHA provided technical expertise, leadership and rescue equipment as rescuers drilled 240 feet to reach the men and pull them to the surface. MSHA promotes safety and health in the nation's mines through enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance. The Quecreek investigation report is available on MSHA's web site at www.msha.gov.

See Report